* Agency proposes rule to spell out bag, seat charges
* Move comes as industry backs bill to play up base fares
(Adds comment from airline group)
By Karen Jacobs
May 21 U.S. airlines should disclose fees for
checked baggage, carry-on items and other services to make it
easier for travelers to discern the true cost of a ticket, the
federal government said on Wednesday.
The proposed Transportation Department disclosure rules,
which build on regulations from 2009 and 2011, would stipulate
that online flight search sites like Expedia Inc,
Google Inc and Kayak provide more
Carriers would have to spell out specific charges for
carry-on items and advance seat assignments.
Airlines for America, a Washington-based lobby for U.S.
airlines, said the proposed rules could raise airline costs and
result in higher airfares or reduced service.
"We believe this proposal overreaches and limits how free
markets work and will have negative consequences," Airlines for
America spokeswoman Jean Medina said in a statement.
A Southwest Airlines spokesman said the carrier has not had
enough time to review the proposals. American Airlines
and United Continental deferred to Airlines for America
The proposed consumer protections come as the airline
industry supports legislation that would roll back rules
requiring greater disclosure of fees and taxes for airfares.
The Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 would allow airlines to
play up base fares in advertising, but disclose taxes and fees
separately. The measure is backed by Airlines for America. A
counter measure to keep current rules in place was recently
introduced by Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey.
The DOT said it expects to issue a final rule on the latest
proposals next year.
The move is "a direct pushback to what A4A (Airlines for
America) is trying to do, which is to really make things more
opaque," said Robert Mann, an airline consultant in Port
Washington, New York.
"That's the way airlines used to advertise and the DOT
banned it long ago," Mann said.
In recent years, airlines have implemented extra charges for
items once included in the ticket price. More airlines have
added these so-called ancillary fees, with low-cost carrier
Frontier Airlines last month disclosing it planned new charges
for carry-on bags and certain seats.
The Transportation Department said charges for additional
air-travel services were difficult for buyers to determine up
The proposal would also require airlines and agents to
disclose on website itinerary displays whether flights sold are
operated with other carriers. Big travel agents would have to
respond quickly to consumer complaints and offer the option of
holding reservations at quoted fares without payment for 24
hours if made a week or more before departure.
The agency is also looking to expand the number of carriers
reporting on-time performance and mishandled baggage rates to
airlines that account for at least 0.5 percent of U.S. scheduled
passenger revenue from 1 percent. The DOT said that change would
affect carriers like discounter Spirit Airlines.
(Reporting by Karen Jacobs in Atlanta; editing by G Crosse,
Paul Simao and Diane Craft)